Some excitement on the morning before arriving Puka Puka with the first sighting of another vessel since leaving Christmas Island a couple of weeks before . We had finished up at Christmas on a day that saw the sad departure of Chrissy the purser and sailing master, dragged back to the other world by it’s uncompromising emails. A day with much rain and squalls, which three times caused the Kwai to drag, and required the re-setting of the anchor. Soon after the evening departure, a nice E’ly breeze set in, and with all lower sail set we made a good speed.
By 0600 the next morning, the breeze had mostly disappeared, so we brailed-up and continued with just the iron tops’l. In this way, with continuing light but mostly fair winds, there was often not enough for the sails to draw. On crossing the line, those who should have been brought before King Neptune to answer for their numerous and heinous crimes, were somehow spared ( though he might have been chuckling when the cook discovered that, after a morning in the sun, the aluminium seat of the heads was every bit as hot as her bacon-pan). Instead they were allowed surfing and a stop for a swim close to the equator. A full man overboard drill was executed, and a dripping-wet Kabiriera (crew) generally agreed with being rescued.
Arrival at Penryn was on Easter Sunday; through the pass and anchoring in the lagoon. The religious importance of the day, and perhaps the number of sharks, kept most out of the water. Monday was also a holiday, but once alongside, there was some cargo work, finishing with a flourishing Kwai store on the Tuesday, after the opening of the bank.
A quick and uneventful trip brought us to Rakahanga just before dawn on Thursday. With no steady wind to keep us clear of the reef, the day was spent hovering close to the pass. Cargo, already mostly organized into separate consignments and palletized, was quickly discharged. This left the hot afternoon for the Kwai Store, with the whole eighty-or-so inhabitants keeping the crew busy, including Jane the cook in charge of the cash. We left just in time to do the three hours to Manihiki and find an anchorage outside the surf on the Western point before dark. In another well organized day, cargo was quickly ferried through the pass to Tauhunu (village on Manihiki Island), by the well-natured boatmen, and Kwai store completed by 1600 and we returned to the anchorage. The next day was the turn of Tukao , the village on the North of the Island. Again all hands to help with the Kwai store, but Chief Engineer did find an opportunity to obtain a couple of local pearls for a pair of earrings. Perhaps wearing these will improve his chances with his Full Monty set, in the nightly talent contest hosted by Tetaake the Christmas DJ. Though some of us prefer it when the more melodious traditional songs, led by Banu (crew) with his Ukelele, replace the karaoke, with all Kiribati joining in.
Work was finished up quickly at Tukao Village, as preparations were made ashore for the funeral of a village elder, the body being taken to Rakahanga in the evening by a fleet of skiffs. The Kwai was prepared for sea while Captain Evy led a raiding party across the lagoon, returning with a handy aluminium dory; fast and capacious, this will be put to work in the other islands, and currently sits well on the main hatch.
Light winds and little sailing continued to the beautiful island of Nassau. Making landfall around 10:00, the school children were given the rest of the day off, and followed our progress along the beach towards the pass. Cargo and Kwai store complete in the afternoon, we departed Nassau for a slow overnight steam to Puka Puka. Another hot night meant most sleeping on deck, and a couple in the bowsprit netting. Sleepiness seemed to characterize Puka Puka. Barge crew, stevedores and officials taking part in a fishing competition, left us with a challenge to get the cargo ashore. The barge’s fuel and fuel hose were also absent, so these items, and a crew for the barge (Banu acting as barge Captain) were provided by Kwai, and a few young locals were found to help. In this way the cargo was brought ashore, and the following day Kwai store was set up. With tarpaulins rigged just in time, more or less the whole day was spent selling in very heavy rain, but a very successful day, none the less.
Once all secure for sea, we departed Puka Puka in ballast for Christmas Island at 1630 on Thursday 6th. Winds continue to be too light and fickle, and the captain is already considering who we will have to eat first.
Signing off for now, respectfully,
First Mate Francis